Host City: The events landscape is increasingly competitive, and in the current financially challenging environment, why does Glasgow continue to host major events?
Susan Deighan: Glasgow has an immensely strong record of delivering some of the world’s biggest events, from the Commonwealth Games to COP26, and, this year, the inaugural UCI World Cycling Championships. These significant world events contribute to the city’s economy and identity and over the last decade Glasgow has cemented its reputation as the perfect location for international events.
Yet every bid is rooted in the local. Each decision to bid for or host a major event rests in Glasgow’s policy ambitions. While traditional economic benefits are still key, increasingly the focus is on creating a tangible, worthwhile legacy for the city and its communities.
We believe that the city’s events programme provides the people of Glasgow with the opportunity to benefit in the longer term, from the enhanced opportunities for participation leading to improved health, and wellbeing outcomes.
Major events can be a catalyst for change in societal behaviours, and aligning with local aims to encourage a healthier and more active population has countless benefits.
Take this summer’s Cycling events and their long-term impact. The city of Glasgow is committed to improving access to cycling for all, to active travel, to volunteering, to becoming a healthier, happier, and more sustainable city. For Glasgow, the UCI Cycling World Championships were an incredible opportunity to change a great city for the better.
As a world-leading festival and events destination, Glasgow is capitalising on major events to generate global exposure, developing, and promoting the city’s enviable international brand, People Make Glasgow. In addition, it is a driver for generating positive social impacts. We have recently recruited our first Social Impacts Development Manager, who is responsible for developing and evidencing positive outcomes for local communities and ensuring this is part of our event planning process.
Host City: The theme of this year’s conference is Driving and Reacting to Change. Is Glasgow an innovative city?
Susan Deighan: As you touched on, Glasgow is operating in an increasingly competitive environment, I think this has encouraged us to draw attention to Glasgow’s USP.
In recent years Glasgow has, in partnership with others, created brand new events. In 2018 Berlin and Glasgow successfully co-hosted the inaugural European Championships. In August, Glasgow was at the centre of the biggest cycling event in the world, when it welcomed the first-ever UCI Cycling World Championships to Scotland.
Glasgow is a trailblazer; some might say a disruptor. From scratch, we have created completely new major events, which have succeeded and have gone on to be hosted elsewhere. We have an enviable reputation for being a successful host city, making Glasgow a stand-out candidate when international sport bodies are considering where to host their event. They can look at our innovative events history and trust Glasgow to deliver confidently and expertly.
Host City: Continuing to consider reacting to change, how might evolving audience attitudes drive change for host cities?
Susan Deighan: Glasgow has welcomed the Host City Conference to our city for nine years. It returns to Glasgow again this year because we use this gathering of leading destinations, rightsholders and organising committees as an opportunity to pose and discuss the tough questions facing our industry.
This year we will focus on driving and reacting to change. I am confident issues such as what is important to Gen Z will be tackled. How will environmental values push major events to drive innovation through sustainability initiatives, which in turn push governments on towards net zero targets.
Glasgow’s approach to this, across the range of events the city hosts, has led to our ranking 8th in the world on the Global Destination Sustainability Index. The ranking positions Glasgow as the first city out with Scandinavia, and the only UK city, to appear in the top ten, maintaining this will be key when hosting future events.
Will the rise of the mega event continue or will joint pan-destination bids like the UK and Ireland’s Euro 2028 become the new norm in international sporting events? Should the historical significance of an event be enough to guarantee its continuation? Continuing to deliver successful events will rest on being brave enough to challenge the status quo.
Given changing tastes, landscapes, and attitudes, we must consider, adapt, and respond to what makes an event relevant to its audiences.
Host City: Equality, diversity and inclusion are increasing buzzwords; has Glasgow made a genuine effort to influence a shift in the events the city has hosted?
A: Yes. I have watched Glasgow flourish by committing wholeheartedly to the transformative power of investing in culture and sport for all. The city has hosted an amazing array of civic events, from the Garden Festival in 1988 and City of Culture in 1990 to the UEFA Champions League Final in 2002 and the opening of the Hydro in 2013, the incredible 2014 Commonwealth Games, the UN Climate Change Conference in 2022 and, this summer, the UCI Cycling World Championships.
This year Glasgow is celebrating soaring up the annual World’s Best Cities Report from 93rd last year to 61st, second in the UK after London, and our role as European Capital of Sport. I think one of the reasons we were the first city to be awarded this accolade for a second time is because we recognise that sport can be an immensely powerful way of bringing diverse communities together. It inspires passion, engagement, and identity like few other things.
At Glasgow Life we believe access and participation are universal rights, which can have profound lifechanging impacts.
For these reasons we are pleased to have worked with UCI to combine all para-cycling events into the main competition programme at this summer’s World Cycling Championships. We support equal prize money for men and women and, personally, I was incredibly proud to watch the elite women’s road race bring eleven days of outstanding competition to a close in Glasgow this summer.
Host City: Looking at evolving sports and formats, what does the future of events in Glasgow look like?
Susan Deighan: 2024 is another significant year as we prepare to be in the international spotlight again with World Athletics and the World Irish Dance Championships.
History and experience continue to deepen my belief that major events have the power to change people’s behaviour at a societal level.
As competition to host events increases from across the globe, and while the financial situation at home remains challenging, it is important we take stock.
In this time of change, Glasgow continues to collaborate with partners and is currently developing a new events strategy. As an innovative host city, with a successful record of reacting to change, Glasgow will respond to the enlightening, exciting and inventive ideas emerging from these discussions, to ensure Glasgow remains at the forefront of event organisers’ go-to cities when deciding on a host city.
Register for Host City 2023 here: https://www.hostcity.com/host-city-2023/register